The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #80912   Message #3858091
Posted By: GUEST,Bob Coltman
31-May-17 - 08:43 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Wandering (Early and Late)
Subject: RE: Origins: Wandering (Early and Late)
Hi Joseph,

Many thanks for that most interesting reference. What it shows is that, first, this song must in some way have been the (or an) original of the later "Wanderin'." That much is clear from the lyrics given.

The melody, though, seems to me to bear very little if any relation to the melody in Sandburg, which is the standard tune now.

So there is a fascinating interim of about ten years (or less, we don't know how long Sandburg had the song before he published it) between Enrique R Smith's published "Wandering Blues" of 1917 and the arrival of the, ahead of its time, very torchy-sounding "Wanderin'." During that time the lyrics got somewhat reset, other lyrics got added, and the tune turned into something quite different.

I wonder if I am wrong in suspecting some intermediate composer? Sandburg knew quite a few musical intellectuals some of whom tried their hand at vernacular songs. Maybe the song got retooled by one of those?

Or by Sandburg, who brought a poet's sensitivity to folksong. Back in May 2005 Clint Keller (see second message from top of this thread) suggested "Sandburg himself may have had a hand in it." That's still a live possibility. Indeed this song as he recorded it has a brooding quality that comes very near the heart of his chosen singing style.

So could Sandburg, one of our premier poets of his day, have been the alchemist who put together the standard version of "Wanderin'," drawing on the lyrics of the two informants he mentioned?

Any Sandburg scholars among us? Can anyone find in his biographical materials, papers, etc. any other references he ever made to "Wanderin'" that ampify those in American Songbag?

Of course in those days it was common for folk performers to (1) tinker invisibly with traditional lyrics and/or melody (many examples, including John Jacob Niles and even Alan Lomax), and (2) never admit it. So there may be no final answer.